A day after the House Administration Committee released guidelines informing Members how to run their offices during a government shutdown, some lawmakers said they will not furlough a single staffer.
Nevertheless, employees are still uncertain about their fates.
Though Members were told staff has to fulfill a constitutional duty to work, lawmakers have wide latitude to choose who is “essential” and who is “nonessential” and would thus be furloughed, according to guidelines released Tuesday.
Members from both parties said their entire staffs will be working Monday regardless of whether Congressional leaders reach a budget deal.
In the event of a shutdown, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he would keep his employees at their desks.
“As far as I’m concerned, my intention is to furlough nobody, as an individual Member who believes those who choose to come into work fall under my Constitutional arm,” the California Republican said.
“My staff is going to be reporting to work,” Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) said. “I don’t like where we’re at, but my staff is going to be here with me trying to do our jobs and figure it out.”
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, noted that neither category is enviable.
“Either way, whether you’re essential or nonessential, you may or may not get paid,” the Florida Republican said. “But what I’m thinking about is, I’m still a Member of Congress, I’ve still got a job to do. I might have my whole staff be essential.”
Staffers would only receive back pay if Congress passes a provision in the next spending bill restoring pay for the time that the government was shuttered. That could take months or not happen at all.
One Democratic scheduler whose office was still working out its employment strategy said living a professional life on the razor’s edge is taking its toll. The staffer started a part-time job baby-sitting for extra income in case Congressional paychecks cease.
“With things like this looming every few weeks, you have to take care of yourself,” the staffer said. “I think that it puts you in a weird position. Part of it is, ‘Do I want to come into work if I’m not going to get paid for it anyway?’ The other part is that feeling nonessential is not a good feeling.”
That feeling also lingers among Capitol Visitor Center tour guides, who would be furloughed. In fact, the CVC en bloc would close, according to the guidelines.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.